September Media Consumption

What I’m listening to at the moment:

  • Show of Hands, Roots and Country Life – exploring their most played on Spotify.
  • The Beatles, I Need You. Put on pub jukebox by a seemingly drunk landlady.
  • Naked Famous, Young Blood + others. Heard during a TV episode.
  • Groove Armada, Paper Romance. Played at work.
  • Cater the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Sheriff Fatman. Intrigued by band name whilst on a Wikipedia browsing session got their via Nicholas van Hoogstraten from White Zimbabweans from Zimbabwean Economy.

My “5 Star Rated” Spotify playlist.
What I’m watching at the moment:

  • Waterloo Road – what will the social issue be this week?
  • The Real Hustle – new series on BBC3
  • Watchdog – skip through the boring bits
  • Don’t tell the bride – Recent Pride and Prejudice wedding went perfectly, normally something goes wrong.
  • Just finished watching the Naked Gun Films for the first time in a couple of years

What I’ve read recently/am currently reading:

  • Ned Boulting – How I won the Yellow Jumper. Excellent book about Ned’s escapades covering the Tour de France for ITV. He went to his first Tour knowing nothing about cycling other than there was some cancer guy called Lance who had won it.
  • Barbara Demick – Nothing to Envy. True stories about life in North Korea.

More Music Variety – Not Bloody Likely Heart

Following the Heartification of Global Radio brands, which has succeeded in turning local radio stations around the country in to a London show with local drivetime presenters stuck on for good measure, my local commercial FM radio station now promises “More Music Variety”.

In a recent appearance on Zane Lowe’s show Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills said that he used to work for a station that promised to play more music variety – when it was plainly obvious that they didn’t.

This is so true. All Heart seem to play at the moment is Take That, Bruno Mars, Cee Low Green.  Under their former Mercury guise they had a period where they would play the Tom Robinson Band’s 2-4-6-8-Motorway on an almost daily basis, despite the fact it was released in 1977!

There’s a joke in our family that you can’t listen to 5 songs or more on Heart without having Robbie Williams or Take That played. A typical Heart link seems to consist of “Wow that was an amazing/beautiful song, isn’t it a lovely day today, coming up we’ve got songs by Adele, Mike Posner and Take That”.

Looking at the airplay chart things seem to run true. Heart Hertfordshire (what a name) has 3 songs by Adele in the top 10 most played songs last week. 8 songs have been played over 30 times in the week. Radio 1 on the other hand did not play any song over 30 times and only 9 more than 20 times.

Local Paper ‘re-writes’ my content

A few weeks back I was sent the following newspaper cutting by my Dad (large version).

You might not be able to read the hand-written note he added to the side, it reads – “familiar wording?”.   The left side of the image below is a cutting from the property section of the Watford Free paper, the right hand consists of a merged screenshot of content from my website about Cassiobury Park.

The source of inspiration for the Watford Observer article is clear.

I imagine the process went something like this:

WO Office: “We need to make an area profile for a local neighbourhood to stick at the front of the property section in front of the 50ish pages of property ads – preferably somewhere local estate agents want to push  – I know we haven’t done Cassiobury recently”.  Google.  Copy + Paste.  Quick re-order, small additions.  5 minutes later – content done.

When I first saw the piece I wasn’t really sure how to feel. On the plus side it shows my website is used but the laziness of the paper also annoys me, with not much more effort they could have rewritten the content to make it unique.

My sources of information for the site consist of my own local knowledge and of course information I have found elsewhere such as council documents and books but it has all been rewritten and certainly wasn’t a 5 minute job.

Watford Online Media Scene

If I want to get news about my home town online there only appears to be one credible option at the moment.

That being the local newspaper website which insists on squeezing articles and relevant comments into a section less than a third the width of the webpage.  It really is hideous and bizarrely the homepage is little better as the site, like the many clones for other towns which have a newspaper produced by Newsquest, has a stupid marquee displaying jobs from one of their partners.  That said the coverage is much better than I have been able to get anywhere else although the sheer amount of scrolling required to use the site is immensely annoying thanks to all the surrounding adverts and links to totally unrelated material on the site.

One good feature of the Watford Observer website is its blog section which has 21 local residents writing about local issues or what they have been up to providing bloggers with an audience and extra content for the paper at zero cost.

Another local publication, the free monthly MyWatfordNews magazine has a very underutilised website. There were formerly separate websites for each local area covered by the company but now they all redirect to a single central website which has marquees and rotating and sliding banners galore. It’s like the 1990s on Geocities. But worse. And this is a professional publication that wants your advertising spend. On the site there are two large navigateable-to articles on the homepage with another give a link at the bottom. The physical magazines can be viewed via a built-in pdf style viewer but the articles are not given their own pages on the website.  The magazine is really good and I enjoy reading it but the website is absolutely shocking.

The BBC offers little and I don’t think anyone would realistically expect them to be competing with, or even allowed to compete against, these publications.

Next up are the OurSiteName<InsertNameOfOneTownFromAListOfAHundredHere> type directory sites that want to get local small businesses advertising on them.  Sometimes, but not always, these sites include a “Local information guide” or selection of news articles about the local area they are targeting.

On thebestofwatford this comes in the form of a blog. Although coverage is at the rate of less than one brief article a day which are mostly press releases this actually appears to be the best ‘blog’ of local news.  It is clearly written by someone local and is illustrated with photos.

Activ Watford has a ‘news‘ page however it is clearly not their priority as is the eighth tab across in the navigation menu after various classified ad categories. The news, all linked to on external sites, is imported via some kind of RSS search and at the moment at least 50% of the stories relate to a Watford many thousands of miles away in the USA.  Not good.  The site also has a hard to get to ‘information’ page which contains links to press release (council, police, charities etc) articles on the site.

It is very hard for these websites without a physical local presence to get an audience and the Watford Observer clearly have a huge advantage over the other offerings by being part of a large network.  This brings deals with national advertisers and of course local journalists already on the ground and the content posted online would be produced anyway for inclusion in the paper.

However I do think that there is an opportunity for a second local news website to add some variety and perhaps cover some different stories.  I think MyWatfordNews is the best placed to do this as they deliver their magazine to thousands of homes each month with the website address printed on the front and clearly have managed to monetize their website buy selling adverts to local businesses.  They also have to produce content each month for the magazine and this could easily be published online.

MyNews charge £50 a month for a front page advert on the homepage of their network of websites (which cover surrounding towns and villages).  I currently count 5 large adverts in rotation and one small advert on the homepage.  Potentially £250+ a month although I doubt the quoted price is what these companies are actually paying.

Knutsford, with a population about a quarter that of Watford, is a good example of a town with 2 online news sources. There is the Newsquest Knutsford Guardian (change the “knutsfordguardian” section of the URL to any other paper in the network to see the masthead change) and the independent Knutsford Times.  If they can have two credible online news websites why can’t we?

Birmingham Media War

Apparently a media war has just begun in Birmingham.

Last week we received a copy of The Birmingham Press through our door.  Until this came through I hadn’t considered the fact that in almost a year of living in Selly Oak we haven’t once had a free paper pushed through our door.

This was the second issue of a paper which has apparently been launched to target the lucrative property advertising sector.  With the average Birmingham house price currently £154,459 consider the fact that if an Estate Agent charged just a 1% fee they would receive more than £1,500 – and I’m no expert but it seems the average fee is above a single percentage point.

Apparently, and surprising if entirely true, there are no Birmingham-wide free papers only the paid-for daily Birmingham Mail and weekly paid-for Birmingham Post run by the same company. The owners of these titles launched Birmingham Post Lite as a spoiler a day before the first Press issue.

Incidentally the Press is on sale at 50p (soon to be £1) but is being distributed at irregular intervals to, according to the under construction website, “to up to 25,000 selected, ABC1 homes throughout the area”. Let’s just say I don’t think I live in an ABC1 area.

TheLondonPaper and the spoiler London Lite which together had a combined circulation of over 800,000 copies lasted 3 years before rapidly closing one after another, however The Evening Standard got a new owner and new business  model to fill the gap left.

A few interesting articles about the launch/impending war: